Taylor Swift: reputation Stadium Tour // Manchester 2018

I remember the first time I ever laid eyes on Taylor Swift. That memory is firmly etched into my brain. It was 2009. I was watching my tiny TV in my bedroom. I had the music channel on and watched as the presenter counted down the official chart.
Before reaching the top spots, however, the chart was paused to introduce what they called a 'VIP video,' the part of the show where they played a new video from a perhaps lesser known artist. When introducing this track, the presenter spoke of how this artist was "one to watch" because "she's going to be big!" He then proceeded to play Taylor Swift's lead single from her third album, Fearless, and that video was for Love Story... that was the moment I was introduced to a woman I would go on to become such a huge fan of. I was nine years old when I first discovered Taylor Swift and, nine years later, I still hold her so dearly in my heart.

As a child, I got so excited whenever I saw her on TV, I thought she looked like an oh so pretty princess in her music videos and I wanted to be her when I grew up. As a teenager, I listened to her music on the way to school and on the way home every day, I used her songs to cope with the stress of exams and the hardships of college, I found an escape in her whenever things got tough at home and I admired how hard she worked to achieve success. Now, as an 18 year old, I still admire her work ethic, I still find peace and comfort in her music and I still love her... however, I feel these things 100x more intensely because I've had her as a constant in my life whilst growing up.

I always dreamt of seeing her live. After years of supporting, adoring and admiring her, I longed to be in her presence, to experience her beauty, her talent, her character and the light of hope she radiates, in person, but, for one reason or another, it never happened. It became one of those things that I convinced myself never would happen. It didn't seem realistic. However, on 8th June 2018, all of my wildest dreams came true as I attended the opening night of the U.K. leg of her reputation Stadium Tour... and it was the BEST feeling in the world.

From the moment I arrived at the stadium to the moment I left, I felt so safe and at ease. The idea of being surrounded by 50,000+ other people seems terrifying but when those people are Taylor Swift fans, there's absolutely no reason to be frightened. The atmosphere was comfortable and the excitement was palpable in the air as devout Swifties strutted around, banners in hand and incredibly intricate costumes draped over their bodies. The sea of fans in the Etihad Stadium truly was a sight to behold as no one cared who was staring at them, in fact, people wanted to be stared at. No one cared about how crazy their dancing was or how awful their singing voices were, the only thing that mattered in the whole world that night was Taylor Swift and being at her show.

Taylor also ensured everyone was given a light up wristband which connected to the music and flashed different colours depending what song she was singing, whether that be red, blue or a vibrant rainbow. It is little touches like this which set Taylor Swift apart from every other artist, show how she really thinks of the tiny details and wants to make every show as special and memorable as possible.

As soon as I stepped into the stadium, and walked to my seats, the environment was so different to any I've experienced at a show before. The security staff became photographers for the night as fans constantly asked them to take their photos, (they obliged with very friendly smiles) and Taylor ensured boredom would never be an option. There was always something to watch or pay attention to as she blasted music through the speakers and played exclusive videos on the large screens, videos of behind the scenes content and clips of her recalling fond memories from her career. The build up to the show was insanely exciting to say the least. Everyone knew we were in for a treat.

Before the show began and the lady herself emerged, two supporting acts got the party started. Charli XCX and Camila Cabello put on spectacular sets and manifested such incredible energy in the stadium. What with Charli's crazy dancing and Camila's beaming smile, the two made the crowd feel comfortable and instantly reminded them it was okay to let loose and just have fun. I actually saw Camila live with Fifth Harmony in 2016 so to see her absolutely tear up the stage on her own two years later was very special.
Both Charli and Camila are powerful female figures and it was empowering to have them as part of the show. Watching these two badass women, who know what they want and don't care what anyone thinks, put on killer performances prior to another strong woman arriving on stage, was inspiring to say the least. Of course, Taylor Swift concerts are for everyone, however, there is no denying that the reputation Stadium Tour is fully representative of girl power.

After Camila left the stage, it wasn't long until the venue fell silent before erupting into screams as everyone knew what was about to happen. Firstly, a video played, a video of critics and public figures ranting on about Taylor, slandering her, tearing apart her relationships, her attitude towards her fans, rambling on about how she's an attention seeker, manipulative, a psycho serial dater... at the end of this monologue, the woman who was ripped limb from limb by the press two years ago entered the stage through two screens. She stood there tall, proud and unafraid. She stood unapologetically and confident as she sang the opening line, "are you ready for it?" and, from that moment, the show began and it didn't stop. From that moment, we got the pleasure of witnessing Taylor Swift, reborn and rebuilt, happy and free, putting on the concert of a lifetime.

This show... it was unlike anything I have ever experienced and will ever experience again. From start to finish, from every song, every costume change, every different microphone, every prop, every firework, every piece of confetti... it was all so perfect. and I had the honour of viewing it all up close.
Even trying to describe the magnitude of the production is impossible. I cannot quite comprehend all that went into it. There was not a moment of silence or a moment where something wasn't happening. From elaborate costumes, to immense staging, carefully choreographed routines, water fountains, inflatable snakes and a grand piano, Miss Swift thought of everything.

Taylor has this remarkable ability to make you feel as though, in a crowd of thousands, she is singing and speaking just to you. It takes a special type of person to be able to do that. Despite the show being sold out, it felt like an intimate get together with friends.

So, what were the highlights? What were my favourite songs? Which outfit was my favourite? Oh so many questions remain to be answered!

Well, we'll start with the later, my favourite costume being the sparkly rainbow dress she wore for Delicate and Shake it Off. Although, each of Taylor's costumes were dazzling. She switched outfits more times than I've had hot dinners, keeping fans on their toes at all times.

A first highlight had to be hearing I Did Something Bad, live, one of my favourite songs from her reputation album. Taylor sang it with such resilience, such power, so proudly, and everyone in the stadium felt the same fire inside them as she did. She stomped around the stage in a pair of killer thigh high boots, taking charge, reminding everyone that she is her own woman and that, "if a man talks shit, you owe him nothing."

Look What You Made Me Do, the lead single from reputation and the song that kicked off this badass Taylor era was an empowering moment. As a giant snake emerged and snakes appeared on the screens, we watched on with pride as Taylor took back full control of a narrative that almost destroyed her career not so long ago. She's in control, she calls the shots and she doesn't care who knows it or disagrees with how she lives her life. Even the most timid of audience members were fist pumping the air and screaming along with lyrics like "all I think about is karma."

The night was filled with a few mash ups of iconic Taylor tracks, the first being Style, Love Story and You Belong With Me. Cheers filled the venue as the opening note to Style played - it is clearly a favourite amongst Swifties - Taylor did her famous model strut around the stage to the beat before Love Story began. Personally, hearing Love Story live was a special moment. As this was the first song of Taylor's I ever heard, when she sang it before me, I was transported back to being that nine year old girl in my bedroom, watching her on TV. Millions of memories came flooding back to me and I was reminded of all the happiness I've experienced as a Taylor fan over the years. Finally, You Belong With Me was a real crow pleaser, as Taylor said, "Let me see you jump, Manchester!" and everyone lost their inhibitions to just bop up and down to a song which holds a dear place in Taylor's heart and helped shape her career into what it is today.
A second mash up came in the form of the famous Speak Now tune, Long Live, and the angelic New Year's Day from reputation. I was hit with so many emotions during this performance as Long Live is my favourite Taylor Swift song of all time. The lyrics resonate so deeply with me and clearly do with Taylor as she has chosen to perform it all these years later as a 'thank you' to her fans for sticking by her though the rough patches. I cried as she sang these beautiful songs on piano, just looking up at the wonderful woman before me and struggling to believe that the moment I was living in was real. As Taylor sang "Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you," in New Year's Day I vowed to never forget this night for as long as I live. She did also slip up by playing the wrong notes halfway through the medley, bursting out laughing before saying, "Whoops! That was not correct at all! Let's start that again," reminding us that, despite being the polished pop star she is, she still stumbles and she is still human.

Being the musical royalty that she is, one stage wasn't enough for Taylor Swift as an extra two B stages were situated at the back of the pitch. But how did she get to them? You may ask. Well, she flew... literally. Whilst belting out Delicate in a sequin frock, Taylor climbed into a light up chrysalis and travelled above the pit of fans below her, beaming and waving at each one. She ended up right above my head at one point and I found myself wondering, 'if this were to land on my head right now, I wouldn't complain.'

Each night on tour, Taylor performs what has become known as a 'surprise song' on a B stage, meaning she adds a different one to the set list for every show. Manchester were treated to Red's grungy single, I Knew You Were Trouble, after which she gave a profound speech about the spirit of Manchester, how much she admires the city's resilience, hope and how it was an honour to play for us following the attack on Manchester Arena last year. It was a touching moment, to say the least. Taylor truly speaks with such sincerity and heart and it was clear she meant every word when she said she felt inspired by Manchester's love for music and refusal to let anyone forget about the 22 victims.

A wave of nostalgia hit as Taylor flew back over to the main stage in a skeleton singing a mash up of Bad Blood and Should've Said No, a track from her debut country album, which was released over a decade ago. To see 28 year old Taylor singing teenager Taylor's songs, feeling so much stronger, having achieved so much, was a really proud moment for me as a fan.

My favourite song from reputation is, undoubtedly, Getaway Car, the sonically cohesive, wonderfully crafted masterpiece, which I had the blessing of experiencing with Taylor just five rows away from me, decked head to toe in sparkles. This was definitely a live favourite, especially as Taylor sang it when it was dark and the whole audience really went for it with the singing.

The closure of the show was certainly a highlight, not because the show was ending, because that absolutely was NOT a highlight, however, the We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things mash up showed that Taylor saved the best til last. Prior to this, bounds of confetti burst out as Taylor finished Call It What You Want, before a water fountain appeared and she and her dancers threw a real Gatsby party. This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things was the perfect closing song, especially as it was accompanied by fireworks. As Taylor, her singers and backing dancers took their final bow, only then did it hit me what I had just witnessed. This was so much more than just a music concert, it was a real show and anyone who bought tickets feeling bitter about their hefty price tag will have surely walked away feeling as though they got their moneys worth.

The main highlight of the show, however, wasn't the jam packed set list, the glitzy costumes, the flashlights in the crowd or the fireworks that lit up the sky. As brilliant as those things were, for me, the best part of the show was seeing how much Taylor enjoyed it. After she experienced such a low time in her life and was left wondering if her fans would be there to help her pick up the pieces. After she spent so long questioning herself and her worth. After she spent so long feeling isolated and undeserving of love. After she spent so long being painted as the cold, calculated villain who cares for no one but herself... to see her shining like the true star she is, grinning from ear to ear throughout, delivering spine-chillingly astonishing vocals and dancing without a care in the world, that is the most rewarding thing you can witness, as a fan. To see someone you look up to having used all the world's hatred to create something positive, having turned their pain into energy and feeling refreshed and as if they can conquer the world when, not so long ago, they wondered if it was even worth carrying on, is so fulfilling. I felt the greatest sense of pride to see little country singer Taylor Swift, who played to cafes at the beginning of her career, play to a sold out stadium of adoring fans who had her back no matter what. It was a real honour to be at her show, which just so happened to be her first U.K. stadium show.

I can only describe what I experienced that June night as pure magic. I have never felt so warm and fuzzy inside and, thanks to Taylor, my heart has never felt so full. There truly is no one else who I'd rather dance the night away with and this night is one I shall cherish, forever and always.

Love, Emily :)

1 comment:

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